USC president to step down in wake of physician sex abuse scandal: 5 things to know

Alia Paavola - Print  | 

C.L. Max Nikias, PhD, president of Los Angeles-based University of Southern California has agreed to resign over the latest scandal involving a former university gynecologist accused of sexually abusing students, according to The New York Times.  

Here are five things to know.

1. Dr. Nikias' decision to step down followed a call from students, faculty and alumni for his resignation. More than 200 high-ranking professors signed a May 22 letter to the university's board of trustees, and by May 25, nearly 500 people had signed the letter. The letter said Dr. Nikias no longer had the "moral authority to lead" and had failed to protect students and staff from "repeated and pervasive sexual harassment and misconduct," according to The New York Times.

2. The latest scandal causing the uproar and call for Dr. Nikias' resignation involves former chief gynecologist George Tyndall, MD, who continued to see patients for at least 30 years despite having numerous sexual assault complaints filed against him. USC suspended Dr. Tyndall in 2016 after a nurse reported a complaint against him. In 2017, he was forced out of USC. The university allegedly received reports of sexual harassment by Dr. Tyndall dating to the 1990s but didn't report them to the Medical Board of California until this year.   

3. In the wake of the scandal and the call from the USC community, the university's board of trustees agreed to begin the process of selecting a new president.

"We have heard the message that something is broken and that urgent and profound actions are needed," a statement from the university board reads, according to The New York Times. “We will rebuild our culture to reflect an environment in which safety and transparency are of paramount importance, and to institute systemic change that will prevent this from occurring in the future."

4. While Dr. Nikias agreed to step down, there was no time frame given for his departure. It is unclear if an interim president will be appointed.

5. Dr. Nikias became USC president in 2010 and served during a period of tremendous growth. However, he had increasingly come under fire in the last year for how the university handled several sexual assault scandals, which were first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

"In this case, as in prior cases … the University has kept the wrongdoing quiet, settled financially with the wrongdoer in secret and denied any responsibility on the part of the University. … Time after time, the administration has admitted to its failings only after being exposed by the Los Angeles Times."

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